NEW DELHI, JAN. 7. The India-Pakistan talks on the construction of the
Baglihar dam on the Chenab river in Doda district of lammu and Kashmir
broke down today; and Pakistan has said it would go ahead and seek the
appointment of a "neutral expert" to address differences with India as
permitted by the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960. Ashfaq Mahmood, Pakistan's
Water Resources Secretary, told presspersons today that this "next step"
would be taken as there had been no progress in the three days of talks
held with his Indian counterpart, V.K. Duggal, on the Baglihar dispute. He
said the Pakistan's move to go ahead and seek the appointment of a neutral
expert would be the first occasion since the Treaty was signed by India,
Pakistan and the World Bank 44 years ago. Mr. Mahmood claimed that the
proposed Baglihar dam, at 470 feet, was higher than Pakistan's Tarbela
dam. Mr. Mahmood, however, did not answer a question why the Pakistan had
not invoked the appointment of a neutral expert as far as the Tulbul
navigation project was concerned — an issue which has been under
discussion for 16 years between the two countries. 'Ready to continue
discussions' In a related development, an External Affairs Ministry
official said India was ready to continue technical discussions with
Pakistan on the Baglihar dispute. According to him, the Indian position
remained that the design of the project was well within the definitions
contained in the Indus Waters Treaty.
Albert Einstein famously observed that, "You
cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for
war." This straightforward piece of common sense
wisdom is lost to leaders in Pakistan and India.
They seem intent on talking about trying to
prevent war and yet insist on pushing ahead as
hard and fast as they can on getting ready for
the next war. They continue to make and buy
weapons, even as peace falls by the wayside.
Hardly a day goes by without a report of Pakistani and Indian officials, foreign secretaries or foreign ministers meeting and talking. This a welcome respite from the past several years of tension interrupted by crises and threats of war. But if the current round of nuclear talks is to amount to more than talks and agreements that formalise the status quo, leaders and the public in India and Pakistan will need to talk about and agree to concrete measures that help slow the momentum towards ever larger and more destructive nuclear arsenals.
A large part of the problem facing nuclear talks is that leaders and people in Pakistan and India are of two minds when it comes to their nuclear arsenals. On the one hand, they recognise that these weapons cast a dark, potentially fatal shadow over the future of both countries. India's foreign minister Natwar Singh declared "To me personally, the most important thing on our agenda should be the nuclear dimension". General Musharraf claimed that "we have been saying let's make south Asia a nuclear-free zone" and added that "If mutually there is an agreement of reduction of nuclear assets, Pakistan would be willing".
At the same time, officials and leaders on both sides seem bewitched by the power of the bomb. They each believe that the threat of massive destruction represented by their nuclear weapons is a form of protection, and so a force for good. Lost in this nuclear logic, they are forced to concede that the possession of nuclear weapons by the other state serves the same purpose. The joint statements released after both the expert-level talks on nuclear confidence building measures in New Delhi in June and when the Foreign Secretaries met in Delhi affirmed the two sides see the nuclear capabilities of each other as a "factor for stability."
The idea that nuclear weapons are a 'factor for stability' flies in the face of both reason and experience. The incredible destructive power of nuclear weapons is meant to spawn fear in adversary states. But this fear also incites these states to seek the same weapons and produces a widening spiral of instability and escalation. The decades of superpower cold war are a history of hostility, crises and ever growing conventional and nuclear arsenals. However, nuclear weapons did serve to create stability in one area. They have ensured and protected a vast nuclear weapons complex, one persists even now, fifteen years after the Cold war ended.
There is abundant evidence since the May 1998 nuclear tests that there is no stability to be found in the shadow of the bomb. Crisis has followed crisis. First there was the Kargil war. Then India and Pakistan were enmeshed in another military confrontation involving an estimated half a million troops, about two-thirds of them Indian, facing off across the border. An Indian army officer spoke of plans for a quick attack that would set back "Pakistan's military capability by at least 30 years, pushing it into the military 'dark ages'," adding that "casualties in men and machines in such an operation will be high and the military has firmly told the politicians to prepare the nation for losses and delayed results, as fighting will be fierce." The Indian Army chief has since confirmed details of the plans.
So what have the two sides talked in the nuclear talks. The only 'new' measure that has been trumpeted is another hotline, this time linking the two foreign secretaries, through their respective foreign offices, "to prevent misunderstandings and reduce risks relevant to nuclear issues". J. N. Dixit, India's national security adviser wrote in November 1990 that prime ministers Chandrashekhar and Nawaz Sharif decided to establish a direct hotline and to activate the hotline between the offices of the foreign secretaries and the directors of military operations. In Dixit's judgment "hotline conversations between the director-generals of military operations remain routine and the prime ministerial hotline has seldom been used, as has the hotline between the two foreign secretaries". So much for hotlines.
The other agreed measure that has been highlighted is the agreement to notify each other of upcoming missile tests. This was in fact agreed to in Lahore in 1999 and was part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed there. Since then, the two states have been informing each other about missile tests, of which there have been many. Now, five years later, they have simply agreed again that they will conclude such a notification agreement.
The missile test notification agreement, when it comes, will do nothing about limiting either state from continuing to test missiles with ever longer range, greater accuracy, and more destructive power. General Musharraf announced proudly "We are conducting a missile test every second day" and India's defence minister Pranab Mukherjee made clear that missiles would be tested 'as and when required'.
A little common sense shows there are some obvious things that Pakistan and India could do, if they want to do more than just build 'confidence' while their nuclear arsenals keep growing and becoming ever more deadly.
Both India and Pakistan have emphasised repeatedly that they seek only a 'minimum' nuclear arsenal. General Musharraf's remarks about Pakistan's willingness to consider a 'reduction of nuclear assets' makes clear that this threshold has already been crossed. This should be no surprise. Pakistan and India have been making the fissile material (the nuclear explosive) for their weapons as fast as they can for decades. They already have enough for several dozen nuclear weapons each.
If they each used only five of their weapons against the other's cities (one bomb per city), it is estimated that there would a total of about three million deaths and an additional 1.5 million severely injured. The experience of death and destruction on this scale would be beyond imagination for either country.
Given that India and Pakistan can inflict this much devastation using only a fraction of their nuclear weapons stockpile, it is beyond any understanding why they continue to produce more fissile material for more nuclear weapons. The two countries should stop making more fissile material. And, no more of the existing fissile material stockpile should be turned into nuclear weapons. Each additional weapon could destroy yet another city.
Despite the destructive capacity they have already created, nuclear weapons establishments in India and Pakistan, as in similar establishments in other countries with nuclear weapons, pursue research and development activities to make their nuclear weapons both more destructive and more compact. If the future is to offer something other than the paranoid logic of racing to build more and more lethal weapons, the two governments should call a halt to such activities.
One step towards curtailing new weapons development is a ban on testing nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan have repeated their unilateral declarations to conduct no further nuclear weapons tests. But, neither seems willing to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the 1996 international agreement banning explosive nuclear weapons tests - which has been signed by all the other nuclear weapons states (US, Russia, Britain, France and China, as well as Israel), and by 166 other countries. A natural corollary to the ban on nuclear weapons testing is a ban on flight testing of ballistic missiles. Such a ban would inhibit the development of longer range and more accurate, thereby more destructive, missiles. The furious pace of missile development in south Asia and the tit-for-tat testing programmes makes such a ban all the more urgent.
There is another area of possible agreement. In the Lahore agreement, the two governments committed to "reducing the risks of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons". These risks are directly linked to the deployment of nuclear weapons; deployment might involve, for example, putting the weapons on ballistic missiles or keeping the weapons at military airbases close to planes that may carry them. If nuclear weapons are not given over to military forces and not kept ready to use, there is much less danger of them being used by whoever happens to have charge of them at that moment, or of them being involved in an accident.
As part of the Lahore agreements, India and Pakistan committed "to notify each other immediately in the event of any accidental, unauthorised or unexplained incident that could create the risk of a fallout with adverse consequences for both sides, or of an outbreak of a nuclear war between the two countries, as well as to adopt measures aimed at diminishing the possibility of such actions or incidents being misinterpreted by the other." The two states should agree to draw up together a list of all the possible "accidental, unauthorised or unexplained" incidents that they would like the other side to tell them about. This would lay the basis for sharing descriptions of what measures each has taken to reduce the risks of possible accidents and unauthorised incidents.
There are many other ideas that can emerge if there is a will for peace. The obstacles to substantive negotiations are the nuclear weapons complex, the military and the foreign ministries, and the mindless, violent nationalism of the political parties that have embraced the bomb. It is these that have brought us to the point of having to worry about the risk of a nuclear war that might kill millions and the now ever present risk of nuclear accidents.
The writers are physicists; Dr Mian and Dr Nayyar are from Pakistan, Dr Ramana is from India.
[Karachi January 7, 2005]
Over a year has elapsed after the much-publicised Jan 6, 2004 accord between Indian PM AB Vajpayee and Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf to resume 1997's structured, eight point Indo-Pakistan dialogue for normalizing relations between their countries. Second round of the Composite Dialogue may be said to be limping along. Sad to say the deadlock remains intact. Not one Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) like Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service or Khokrapar-Munabao train link could be agreed upon. Latest failure is of the experts meeting in New Delhi on Baglihar Dam. The outlook is bleak.
Ordinarily, the leaders of both countries desire peace; they have no reason to like wars that only cause destruction. Reasons for repeated failures in fence-mending need to be seen under four heads: First, the legacies of history hang heavy over the negotiators. It is not simply the last 57 years that have shaped the adversarial perceptions in these countries. Independence came through harrowing experiences of what remains the world's largest ethnic cleansing. That itself was a culmination of a hundred years of festering communalism.
Secondly, some suspect that the desire to make up is superficial. The two are going through the motions of negotiating to strengthen peace and be civilized neighbours largely at the behest of the US. Consider the position of both countries. Both are strategic partners of the hyper power. Both are nuclear powers and a war between them can escalate into a nuclear holocaust. That easily possible war can upset the agenda of the US, whose advice can not be ignored. While it is possible to overrate the force of American advice, the sophisticated pragmatists of Islamabad and New Delhi are unlikely to underrate it.
Thirdly, both countries are, after all, strategic partners of the US. It is therefore legitimate to assume they share ownership of American agenda in Asia. To that extent, an Indo-Pakistan modus operandi is their own need and not because the US is advising them to normalize. Whatever benefit or advantage Islamabad or South Block may expect from partnership with the US can be jeopardized by continued cold war between India and Pakistan.
Fourth, one asserts that the objective being sought by these two, viz. normalization of ties, is inadequate; it is not attractive enough to overcome the legacy of the Hindu-Muslim deeply coloured hatred which has the basic orientations of Pakistan and India. To overcome this overhang of history, something stronger is needed: a people-to-people reconciliation at all levels. Look at the French and Germans today after only 40 years of specific reconciliation effort: they constitute the strong nucleus of the EU. Both are incomparably richer thereby. And yet they had fought three biggest wars: 1870, 1914 and 1939. Their age-old enmity and disputes have been forgotten.
A thoroughgoing rapprochement among peoples, from grassroots up, of India and Pakistan is a stirring vision; it can, given intelligent and modernist leadership, change the encrusted prejudices and adversarial perceptions fairly quickly. What will dissolve the old inimical perceptions is the effects of large-scale people-to-people contacts and their joint economic and cultural pursuits on as largest possible scale. Their people have thousand and one commonalities and once they start cooperating, the whole chemistry of Indo-Pakistani relationship can change with incomes growth. It is laughably simple and easy. No doubt, it seems a Herculian effort to those who have grown up - and have prospered - during long cold and hot wars.
One has no desire to minimize the difficulties involved in the process of rapprochement between such inveterate adversaries. After all, ther and democratic Indian nationalism while emphasis of Pakistan Idea was on Muslims being distinct. Mr. Jinnah tried vainly to inform Pakistan Movement with secular liberalism. Jinnah is today idolised but his legacy is not his liberal ideas but the very opposite. Jinnah is murdered everyday in Pakistan when he is portrayed as an Islamic Saint; every dictator profusely venerates him but goes on torpedoing democracy.
There are other difficulties. In pursuance of hateful politics both countries became nuclear powers. One is aware of the elaborate justification of the Indian Bomb, in violation of its traditional policies. The writer regards both Bombs to be directly linked with subcontinent's politics. It is American CIA inspired stories of Islamic Bomb in early 1970s that seem to have made Mrs. Indira Gandhi's annoyance through the 1974 PNE. As for Pakistan, it was frank; 1971's decisive defeat rankled and the Bomb was designed to offset India's superiority. Whether it does so or not is irrelevant here.
The Pakistani Bomb has done great mischief. It made Ziaul Haq and Mirza Aslam Beg, Army chiefs in 1980s and early 1990s, arrogant; they said even the putative Pakistani Bomb has made Pakistan unassailable and they could do anything, even carry on a proxy war in Kashmir. Later India chose to become a nuclear power and proved its prowess on May 11, 1998. Pakistanis countered it with their own atomic explosions. A frightened world's perception was that the only place where a nuclear war can happen is the Subcontinent; the US advised talks. After much worsening of the situation during 2002, the two could see no alternative to normalization. Vajpayee indicated it in April 2003 and set the talkathon rolling in January 2004.
Indo-Pakistani atomic weapons have greatly strengthened the hardliners on both sides. The hubris these weapons systems have created is the greatest hurdle in the way of India-Pakistan friendship. This huge hurdle is rivaled by another: These weapons have destroyed the trust between the two countries. Who can forget that these are Doom's Day weapons? There is no defence against them; all talk of missile defence systems is just that. Which government or general can trust an adversary that has nuclear tipped missiles at the ready; so long as Pakistan and India remain atomic powers, they will have to stay on hair trigger alert. Neither Islamabad can trust New Delhi nor vice versa. Even US good offices cannot remove the bleakness of outlook.
One earnestly hopes this picture is overdrawn. The purpose is to underline the situation's gravity. Conscious decisions to reverse the trend are possible, in theory. Would the possible become actual? But this is predicated on great many acts of faith about atomic weapons. Their mischief cannot be undone by mere CBMs. Indeed, CBMs can be extraordinarily treacherous red herring; they implicitly assume the long-term presence of atomic weapons; they seek merely to reduce the risks of accidents, bad ways of deploying, storage and transportation of these weapons and hope to prevent unauthorized launches. CBMs, while being useful, are likely to create false optimism - and at the cost of making nuclear weapons permanent. These weapons are a difficult problem that is required to be solved.
The two leaderships should have realized that Composite Dialogue is going nowhere nor can it succeed because of current premises. Provided they genuinely want peace, friendship and cooperation among South Asian peoples and are prepared for acts of faith in seeking true reconciliation while ignoring vested interests, it can be done. The intellectual effort involved will certainly be taxing. Are there leaders ready to pick up this gauntlet?
Mumbai, Jan. 5: The Sindhi community is sending a signed
memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to express its strong and
irrevocable opposition to any attempt to remove "Sindh" from the national
anthem. The memorandum has been signed by prominent Sindhis like Ram
Jethmalani, Mahesh Jethmalani and Ranjit Butani, editor of Sindhishaan,
the community paper. "It is sad that India could not secure the Sindh
province during the Partition, but its mention in the national anthem
reminds us of the Sindhi community's rich heritage, glorious culture and
wonderful history of India prior to the 1947 Partition," said the
memorandum. "The Sindhi community has been a rootless mass of
civilisation, but still has managed to make tremendous contribution in the
fields of trade, politics, human rights, industry, medicine, social work,
education and law not only in India but across the globe. We appeal to you
to kindly defeat the divisive forces that are trying to further divide and
weaken the secular fabric of our multi-cultured country," it added.
It is a coincidence that India's active military
collaboration with the United States through a
four-member "core group" for "coordinating"
relief provision to several tsunami-affected
Indian Ocean countries should begin just when the
National Security Adviser Jyotindra Nath Dixit
has died. But it only shows that the Dixit legacy
is more durable than an individual's life.
Dixit was one of the main architects - probably, the most important one - of the rebuilding of the India-US relationship during the early post-Cold War period. He took over as Foreign Secretary in 1991 as the Soviet Union was disintegrating, and there seemed no alternative to accepting US hegemony over a unipolar world. Dixit was also the principal executor of New Delhi's policy towards smaller neighbours like Sri Lanka and Maldives in the 1980s, culminating in the Indian Peace-Keeping Force's despatch to Sri Lanka and its ignominious retreat.
It is no aberration that India-US "strategic partnership" should be flowering as India once again projects its power vis-ý-vis not just Sri Lanka and Maldives, but even Indonesia, by offering them tsunami relief assistance while rejecting generous offers to itself. India is moving in the direction of what Dixit would have called the Big League - one of the major powers of the Indian Ocean region and Asia, if not the world. Its inclusion in the "core group" set up by Washington, along with loyal allies Australia and Japan, signifies that movement.
Yet, it also signifies a major departure from India's traditional advocacy of multilateralism and emphasis on working through the UN system. It breaches the Manmohan Singh government's commitment to work for a multipolar globe.
Here lies the contradictory and fraught nature of the Dixit legacy, which has been more concerned with building "strategic partnership" with the US, than with evolving a consistent foreign policy based on doctrines and principles, leave alone ethics. Indeed, Dixit considered himself a "realist" who would never mix foreign policy with ethics or morality.
Washington's sponsorship of the four-member "core group" is hardly guided by faith or a "bleeding heart" concern for human suffering, but by well-thought-out, cynical, power calculations. Indeed, the US has militarised the very concept of relief. The "core group"'s armed forces will deliver it.
The US's claim to philanthropy is suspect. On foreign aid, it ranks last among the world's 30 wealthiest countries. It only allocates 0.14 percent of GDP to aid. The UN-recommended target is one percent, revised to 0.7 percent. Washington bristled at UN official Jan Egeland's remarks that its tsunami aid is "stingy". But as a US Agency for International Development official puts it: "The US is not a charitable organisation where we provide assistance without regard to (its) purpose... It's part of our foreign policy..."
Washington, mired in Iraq, and politically isolated worldwide, has found a chance to assert its global "leadership". Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis says Bush's initiative "represents an opportunity to try to move beyond the frustration of Iraq and pre-emption and his tensions with the Islamic world. It is an example of an area where the US can work in a cause that no one can argue with."
Washington has tried to do this on the cheap - by first pledging a mere $4 million - less than the $25 million which India, with 10,000 dead of its own, pledged to Sri Lanka. Embarrassed at criticism, it raised this to a measly $15 million, then to $35 million, and now to $350 million.
The US's unilateralist initiative has drawn criticism in Europe, especially France. In Britain, former International Development Secretary Clare Short said: "I think this initiative ... sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up."
The UN is arguably best suited to coordinate relief at the international or macro level, while national governments handle the micro part. The tsunami crisis affects 12 countries in the Asian and African continents.
India has agreed to join the US-sponsored "core group" in violation of its past positions. Three considerations have guided this. All three are parochial. First, India wants a "strategic partnership" with the US in the neighbourhood. This means accepting US primacy or hegemony even in the Indian Ocean and jettisoning not just the old - and valid - notion of the "Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace"; but also an independent role for itself. The Indo-US "partnership" is highly unequal. The US will send two huge aircraft carrier-groups, comprising 12 ships and 41 helicopters, besides many more fixed-wing warplanes. India will only send two small hospital ships.
Second, India would like to counter the possibility of China acquiring a larger role between the Straits of Malacca and the Persian Gulf in case the US thins out its presence here. This entails collaborating with the Western bloc powers, including loyal US ally, Australia, and Japan, which has 134 US bases on its soil. The "core group" will more than deliver relief. It will define the shape of Indian Ocean strategic arrangements in the near future.
Third, India is keen to project itself as an aid-donor, not aid-recipient. This is related to building a new Great Power image - itself inseparable from India's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The new buzz in the South Block is: How can we claim a Council seat with a begging bowl in hand? This was part of the rationale for India declaring in 2003 that it won't accept aid from any sources other than six major states.
This rationale is misguided. The Indian government cannot provide basic amenities of survival to its people; it has no business to deny them such help as the international community might offer. So long as 47 percent of Indian children grow up malnourished, and enormous disparities exist between the elite and the people, this would amount to unethical posturing. Manmohan Singh rightly revised the no-aid-but-from-six-sources policy of the Vajpayee government (which was a peevish response to the European Union's criticism of the Gujarat pogrom). It shouldn't return to that perverse logic.
New Delhi hasn't fulfilled its own primary obligations to the tsunami-affected. Relief is inadequate. Mountains of clothes are piling up in Nagapattinam because people don't need clothing so much as drinking water and medicine. In the Nicobar Islands, starving survivors got so enraged at the inadequacy of relief that they kidnapped civil and police officials.
This does not argue against providing relief to India's neighbours, particularly Sri Lanka. It does raise questions, however, about intentions. If the primary purpose is to assert India's pre-eminence and overwhelming military presence, that will be resented by the neighbours.
Indian policy-makers should know better. India's mid-1980s intervention in Sri Lanka was a disaster. India first backed, trained and armed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), then took up arms against it, but couldn't disarm or defeat it. Then, it foolishly backed the LTTE's rivals in the North and East and R Premadasa against Chandrika Kumaratunga. These cynically Machiavellian manoeuvres cost India credibility.
But New Delhi is repeating the same mistake - this time, under US tutelage. Regrettably, Pakistan and China too are extending support to the US effort by flying relief sorties or sending in personnel. This must change.
NEW DELHI, JAN. 3. The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre on
a petition for direction to delete the word 'Sindh', now part of Pakistan,
from the National Anthem and replace it with the word 'Kashmir'. A Bench
comprising the Chief Justice, R. C. Lahoti, and Justice G. P. Mathur,
issued the notice on a public interest litigation petition filed by a
scientist and speed skating champion who represented India in the Japan
Asian Games. In September last, the court, while rejecting his plea, gave
liberty to the petitioner to draw the Government's attention to this and
then approach the court if no action was taken. Accordingly, the
petitioner, Sanjeev Bhatnagar, who is also an advocate, approached the
court stating that the recitation of Sindh in the National An them was an
infringement on the sovereignty of Pakistan. Such singing for the last 54
years and eight months was also hurting the feelings of more than
100-crore people in India. He said the petition was to avoid any
international dispute as such flaws in the National Anthem could bring
dishonour and disrespect to the nation. He sought a direction for deletion
of the word 'Sindh' and substituting it with the word Kashmir.
JAIPUR, JAN. 1. A large number of people displaced from Pakistan will get
Indian citizenship in two special camps to be organised in Sriganganagar
district of Rajas-than on January 19 and 20. The district administration
has decided to hold the camps follow ing the Centre's move delegating to
the Collectors the power to grant citizenship through a gazette
notification. About 20,000 people belonging to the Hindu community, who
migrated from Pakistan at various stages after the 1965 war, have been
living in half-a-dozen districts of north-western Rajas-than without the
citizenship rights for several decades. The Pak Visthaapit Sangh,
representing the refugees, had recently registered protest against the
increase in fee for registration as citizen under the Citizen ship Act.
The Sriganganagar Collector, Kunjilal Meena, who convened a meeting of
district officials on the issue over the week-end, said the displaced
people from Pakistan desiring permanent settlement with Indian nationality
could submit their applications to the Sub-Divisional Magistrates of the
area where they were staying. A separate survey will be launched to
identify those who have not applied for citizenship and whose record of
stay in India is not available. Mr. Meena said he would issue the
citizenship certificates to the refugees living in Sriganganagar, Karanpur
and Padampur tehsils in the camp at the district headquarter on January
19. The cases relating to those living in Ghadsana, Vijaynagar, Raisingh
Nagar and Suratgarh will be disposed of and certificates distributed in
the camp to be held in Vijaynagar on January 20.
K. Natwar Singh's statement in Seoul urging the two Koreas not to emulate India and Pakistan in crossing the nuclear threshold reopens a worthy debate. The UPA, instead of being defensive, should seize the regional and global disarmament initiative.
BARELY six months after K. Natwar Singh committed an indiscretion by announcing in United States Secretary of State Colin Powell's presence that India could reconsider its decision opposing the despatch of troops to Iraq, the Foreign Minister again seemingly stirred up a hornet's nest, in Seoul. In an interview to The Korea Times (published on December 14), he distanced himself (to a limited extent) from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's decision to cross the nuclear Rubicon and said: "Even though we are ourselves a nuclear power, we support complete nuclear disarmament for Korea." He also said India's previous government (of the NDA) was "responsible for the decision to enter the nuclear standoff with neighbouring Pakistan".
The Korean newspaper interpreted this statement to mean that Natwar Singh was urging the two Koreas not to "follow India's example in becoming a nuclear power". Two days later, Indian Express (December 16) further extrapolated this interpretation and charged him with having "virtually expressed regret over India's current nuclear status". It also said that this ran counter to the United Progressive Alliance's (UPA) commitment to a "credible minimum nuclear deterrent" and minimised and denied what it called "the role that various Congress leaders had played in India's nuclear journey".
The NDA seized upon the Indian Express story to pillory the government. The Bharatiya Janata Party, in particular, accused the UPA of "belittling the country's achievement" and beating a retreat from the country's nuclear weapons policy, on which "there is consensus". Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on the defensive and put forward an apologetic statement in Parliament reassuring the NDA that Natwar Singh's statement did not signify a change in official policy, which remains unchanged: "India is a nuclear power and a responsible nuclear power... I categorically say there is no uncertainty in our nuclear policy." The Prime Minister offered the same solemn assurance again on December 21.
In reality, it is open to doubt whether Natwar Singh committed a major breach of policy or propriety. His unembellished quote, free of interpretation, merely said that "we hadn't crossed the threshold for 50 years. And the Congress Party didn't, it was the other party". He then added: "But regret would be futile... you can't put it back in the tube, it's out."
This is fully in keeping with the UPA's own stated commitment to working for complete global nuclear disarmament and updating Rajiv Gandhi's worthy and thoughtful three-stage plan to achieve this. Natwar Singh's observation about the NDA having taken the decision to cross the nuclear threshold in 1998 is factually accurate and is fully in keeping with the freedom of an individual member of the UPA Cabinet to make a personal statement.
It is even more doubtful, indeed quite incorrect, if there is, as former NDA Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh alleged, a "national consensus" on the May 1998 Pokharan-II nuclear tests and the policy followed thereafter to turn India into a full-fledged nuclear weapons power, with an ambitious arsenal. As the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Member of Parliament Nilotpal Basu rhetorically asked in Parliament on December 16, is it at all permissible to call the "great divide across the polity" following the nuclear test a "consensus."
To get the basic facts straight, the NDA in March/April 1998 had promised to conduct a strategic review of India's security and revise India's nuclear policy. Then, without conducting any such review, it went ahead and detonated five nuclear weapons on May 11 and 13. The decision to do so was never discussed in the Vajpayee Cabinet or its strategic affairs committee. It was taken in unseemly secrecy. India's defence services chiefs were informed of the impending tests only two days before May 11 and Defence Minister Geroge Fernandes on that very day.
It is abundantly clear, however, that the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), an extra-constitutional and publicly unaccountable body, was privy to the decision. It was consulted, and in all probability mandated the fateful decision. As the present sarasanghachalak, K.S. Sudarshan, then the RSS's Number 3 leader, boasted in an interview, the BJP had every intention to carry out a nuclear blast in 1996 too, when it ruled for an ignominious 13 days, but there wasn't enough time to do so.
The Pokharan-II tests came in for sharp criticism from the Centre-Left component of the political spectrum, as well as civil society. The Left parties were unsparing in their attack on them. At least two former Prime Ministers (H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral) deplored the NDA's capitulation to "the nuclear lobby".
The Congress party was divided. Party president Sonia Gandhi had on May 11 drafted a statement criticising the tests, but this was pre-empted by senior Congress leader Sharad Pawar's premature congratulation of India's nuclear scientists for their "achievement". (For details, and a review of the Parliamentary debate which followed, in which the majority of MPs who spoke criticised the tests, see my book, co-authored with Achin Vanaik, South Asia on a Short Fuse: Nuclear Politics and the Future of Global Disarmament, OUP, New Delhi, 2000.)
It is noteworthy that the Congress' criticism was spearheaded by none other than the present Prime Minister. In the 1998 monsoon session, Manmohan Sigh warned of the consequences of the tests and a costly arms race, which would send defence expenditure skyrocketing— to a point where "there would be nothing left to defend".
Meanwhile, a broad cross-section of intellectuals, including social scientists, physicists and biologists, besides social activists, mobilised themselves to protest against the tests. In the weeks that followed, the number of groups and individuals which demonstrated in the streets vastly exceeded the minuscule mobilisation organised by the Sangh Parivar, exposing the parody of the CNN-driven image of "the people" jubilating over the nuclear blasts as the authentic representation of the public mood.
Since then, the movement for nuclear disarmament and peace, although still small, has gathered momentum. The establishment of the broad-based Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace in November 2000, supported by over 250 people's movement groups and social activists' organisations, its second very successful National Convention in Jaipur in November 2004, and the holding of the Anti-War Assembly in Hyderabad in December, testify to this. Opinion polls show that more than two-thirds of Indians polled - in one case, 73 per cent - oppose the manufacture or use of nuclear weapons by India.
This is reflected on the political plane too. The Left parties, now with their largest-ever presence in the Lok Sabha, demand that India must unconditionally roll back the nuclear weapons programme to the point of dismantling weapons and that New Delhi must return to the disarmament agenda.
The rationale underlying the opposition to nuclearisation is unassailable. It is greatly reinforced by experience over the past six and a half years. This experience, to put it starkly, is embarrassingly negative. Nuclear weapons have not made India more secure. Just the opposite. Today, millions of innocent citizens are vulnerable to nuclear strikes from across the border, especially from weapons that can be carried by missiles, against which no defence is possible. The same is true of Pakistani civilians, who too can be reduced to specs of radioactive dust in devastating attacks by Indian missiles.
Nuclearisation has failed to impart stability or maturity to the India-Pakistan strategic relationship. On the contrary, it has encouraged rank adventurism. The two states' leaders openly taunted and threatened each other with a nuclear attack both during the Kargil War of 1999 and during their eyeball-to-eyeball military confrontation, with a million soldiers, over 10 long months in 2002. Nuclear weapons will forever act as an enormously complicating factor in any military tension between India and Pakistan.
Nuclear deterrence involves both elaborate preparations to kill lakhs of civilian non-combatants and the active will to do so. As earlier argued often in this column, deterrence is a fraught, indeed dangerous, doctrine on which to base security. During the Cold War, it repeatedly produced crises, generating panic reactions and bringing the globe perilously close to catastrophe - despite the colossal sums invested by the U.S. and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in command and control systems, equivalent to five times India's current gross domestic product.
Given the peculiarities of the India-Pakistan situation, where there is no strategic distance worth the name between the two, and with numerous potential flashpoints and a history of rivalry breaking into war, nuclear deterrence is simply unacceptable. India and Pakistan are courting serious trouble by relying on deterrence - a historic blunder, if there ever was one.
The pro-bomb lobby's fond hope that nuclear weapons would expand India's room for manoeuvre in world politics has also been belied. India has accepted unequal treaties and lopsided economic bargains, especially those imposed by the U.S., to ward off pressure on its nuclear weapons programme. As for the assertion that nuclear weapons enhance a nation's international standing, it is only necessary to look next door. Until the September 11 attacks, nuclear Pakistan had become a virtual untouchable state. India's global stature has admittedly risen recently. But that is because of the Information Technology business, the stability and vibrancy of our democracy, and to an extent, the perception that India has now entered the league of fast-growing economies - not because of, but despite, nuclear weapons.
Therefore, the issue Natwar Singh has raised is highly pertinent. It is a timely reminder of the urgency of returning to the disarmament agenda. The UPA has committed itself to fighting for global disarmament. Manmohan Singh reiterated this on December 21 in Parliament when he said: "We are a country with a civilisational heritage for complete nuclear disarmament. We will join hands with other countries to promote complete disarmament on a non-discriminatory basis globally."
The UPA has, however, fought shy of any regional initiative for nuclear restraint or risk-reduction. It complacently, but falsely, claims that nuclear weapons are a "stabilising" factor in the subcontinent. Recently, at the discussions on nuclear and conventional military confidence-building measures in Islamabad, the two governments blithely declared that Kashmir is no longer "a nuclear flashpoint". This is pure, unadulterated, wishful thinking. So long as Kashmir remains a contentious issue, it will trigger suspicion, hostility and military crises - with a potential for escalation to the nuclear level.
It is of the utmost importance that India take the initiative for regional nuclear restraint and disarmament along with Pakistan - independently of working for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. The most important first steps in such an initiative should be self-evident: agreements not to deploy nuclear weapons, a moratorium on nuclear tests and missile test-flights for one year, extending to two, three years and more, and an accord to keep nuclear bombs/warheads separated from delivery vehicles. This should pave the way for longer-term agreements to stop producing fissile material, dismantle missiles and create a nuclear weapons-free zone in South Asia.
Sage advice to this effect comes from no less the Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the CPI(M) general secretary. In a seminal article in People's Democracy (October 3), Surjeet argues for regional nuclear disarmament in South Asia, endorsing Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf's statement (to NBC News and CNN) that he did not rule out the possibility of India and Pakistan jointly announcing a decision to dismantle their nuclear arsenals. However, he was of the view that "this has to be initiated by India". He further added that "it has to be bilateral. It has to be between India and Pakistan." Surjeet distinguishes this from the proposal made in the 1980s by General Zia-ul-Haq, which was compatible with a U.S. "nuclear umbrella" for Pakistan, which then may or may not have had a nuclear capability.
However, says Surjeet, "now that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, the first thing is to assure the whole world that no nuclear conflagration would be allowed to take place, much less start, in this part of the world. Hence the need for both the countries to display maturity and give up all talk of deterrence and the like. The last six years are a witness to the sordid fact that deterrence has... only aggravated the anxiety of the world peoples about the fate of humanity on the earth. Then, pending a satisfactory resolution of the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], disarmament and other such issues, the imperative for both the countries is that they address each other's concerns on the nukes issue, progressively get rid of nuclear weapons and together fight for general and global disarmament."
Surjeet continues: "Insofar as the General's contention that `this has to be initiated by India' is concerned, there is no harm if India initiates the process. It is not only India's duty as the biggest country of the subcontinent; it will even add to India's prestige in the world and give a momentum to the fight for total and general disarmament. Committed to the cause of disarmament, therefore, the present UPA regime must think about how the subcontinent may be denuclearised and pressure mounted on other nuclear weapons states that they too must eliminate their nuclear arsenals".
There is not a moment to be lost in moving towards such a sensible nuclear policy. By making his statement in Seoul, Natwar Singh has, perhaps inadvertently, opened a new, historic opportunity for course correction. All peace-loving people must seize it.
New Delhi, December 31: TERMING THE previous government's Pakistan
policy as "reactive" and one "frequently oscillating between euphoria and
despair", the UPA Government has promised a "sustained and comprehensive"
dialogue process with Pakistan. In its year-end review, the Ministry of
External Affairs has stated that it will en sure the New Delhi-Islamabad
dialogue will "not be deflected by transient developments and often
contradictory pronouncements from across the border". The review stated,
nevertheless, that the UPA government would maintain the tradition of
national consen sus in the pursuit of foreign policy. It claimed that the
government's confidence in the conduct of relations with Pakistan was
reflected in the number of wide-ranging confidence-building measures that
it has put on table, including several on a unilateral basis. It states
that Prime Minister Man-mohan Singh has enunciated the parameters within
which India seeks peace with Pakistan by emphatically stating that there
is no question of redrawing the international border or allowing further
division of India. The Ministry of External Affairs' year-end review
boasted that the government's foreign policy was "purposeful,
result-oriented and pro-active".
With four more years of Bush as US president, and
his war on terror continuing with even greater
messianic zeal, General Musharraf's political
longevity in Pakistan is assured. But this bodes
ill for the people of Pakistan and for any hope
that democracy will be restored, strengthened and
George W Bush's re-election will probably mean the reinforcement and probable acceleration in the Bush foreign policy doctrine backed up by the US war machine. Unlike many previous US elections, the outcome of election 2004 will have major consequences for the US itself, for the world in general, and perhaps crucially, for Pakistan and its future as well. In many ways, it ensures General Pervez Musharraf's future and longevity as president, and also as chief of the army staff for as long as the Americans continue to back him, certainly for as long as Bush's war against terror continues. While these elections were as close as the one in 2000, their importance was far greater. The US was not at war in 2000, 9/11 had not taken place, and Pakistan was then called a non-democratic country run by an unelected military general. All that has changed in the last four years.
With the US invasion first of Afghanistan and then of Iraq, the region between the Nile and the Ganges has changed quite dramatically. US foreign policy backed by its war machine now dominates and directs international, regional and domestic political processes across this region, most importantly in Baghdad, Kabul and in Islamabad. With Bush reassured another four years, and with the belief that the US electorate has endorsed his vision and his doctrine of waging war against America's enemies in order to make the US a safer place, we can expect much more of the same. In this game plan, Pakistan (especially under the leadership of General Musharraf) plays a key role.
Events since September 11, 2001, have shown how much the US war on terror has relied on Pakistani support and particularly on the support of the Pakistani military. Similarly, with the US backing General Musharraf for his support to US military action in the region, the General knows that the Americans need him to continue with their goals in the region. For this reason, he has been able to extract a huge degree of latitude to get away with a great deal on issues that would otherwise have forced far greater criticism from the US administration.
Pakistan is at the moment, a non-democratic state ruled by a military general who came to power through a coup against a democratically elected prime minister, and was 'elected' through a dubious and contentious referendum and was endorsed by a parliament which lacks much credibility in the eyes of democrats anywhere in the world. Pakistan also has weapons of mass destruction, a fact that is publicly known and for which one does not need certification from UN weapons inspectors. It has also been caught - again not mere suspicion here - in nuclear proliferation, selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Pakistan also houses alleged terrorists and is a base where many al-Qaida and Taliban members have found sanctuary. In addition, it also has a large number of home-grown jihadis and Islamic fundamentalists, many of whom have tasted military action fighting in the name of Islam in Chechnya, Kashmir and Afghanistan. By every stretch of imagination and by any measure of comparison, Pakistan falls into what the George W Bush doctrine would certify as the 'axis of evil'. Yet, Pakistan is now a 'major non-Nato ally'. If ever there was a case for US duplicity, Pakistan is perhaps the best example.
It was just a few short years ago when then US president Clinton visited India and then Islamabad and reprimanded General Musharraf for derailing democracy. Pakistan was close to being declared a 'rogue state' for (at that time) suspected proliferation and an undeclared nuclear programme. The country was near-bankrupt on account of sanctions imposed as a consequence of the nuclear tests and because of General Musharraf's coup. With major donors like Japan having to end all aid programmes and with the might of the US and other western (and democratic) nations not voting in favour of Pakistan in international aid forums and consortiums, Pakistan's credit rating plummeted. No investor, foreign or Pakistani, was willing to invest in the country no matter how lucrative the possible returns. Clearly, in 2001, Pakistan was on the precipice of disaster with General Musharraf's technocratic government vulnerable to domestic political and economic pressures. September 11, 2001 changed all that.
Just as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 guaranteed General Zia ul Haq's political longevity, it took another invasion of Afghanistan which rescued General Musharraf in 2001. With Ronald Reagan fighting the communists in Afghanistan, General Zia had found his saviour, just as George W Bush fighting Islamic fundamentalists 25 years later has emerged as General Musharraf's protector. With Bush re-elected, General Musharraf knows that at least the Americans are not going to rock his boat.
With Richard Armitage saying that 'for us Musharraf is the right man at the right place, at the right time and at the right job', and with Colin Powell1 adding that Pakistan was moving in the 'right direction' under General Musharraf and that we (or the Pakistanis, perhaps?) needed 'a little bit of understanding' as we watch General Musharraf 'go through this process', General Musharraf has no need of any further affirmation nor of any need to prove his credentials or for legitimacy. Presently, with President George W Bush fixated on his war on terror and in his search for Osama bin Laden, General Musharraf has been handed a carte blanche like no other Pakistani general before him. While both Ayub Khan and Zia ul Haq were major beneficiaries of US support, the reasons (as was the era) then were different: both generals were largely fighting many imaginary (and a few real) US wars against communism. These wars were being fought on ideological battle-grounds far removed from US territory. General Musharraf, in contrast, is fighting a real US war as a consequence of attacks on the US homeland. Because of this, his position is far more important to the US than that of Pakistan's two previous military leaders.
The US' need for General Musharraf's continued role in George W Bush's war on terror implies that the General can disregard issues that pertain to restoring substantive and real democracy to Pakistan and to being held accountable for going against the key tenets of Pakistan's constitution which disallows the military from taking over. It also allows General Musharraf to amend the constitution with the Thirteenth Amendment or further still, to wear his uniform and continue as President of Pakistan and as chief of army staff at the same time. In all this, the US (along with other western powers, one must add) turns a blind eye just because Pakistan is the frontline state in the US' war on terror.
With four more years of Bush in the White House and with his war on terror continuing with greater messianic zeal, Bush II will ensure General Musharraf's political longevity. But this, as a consequence, bodes ill for the people of Pakistan and for any hope of the process of democracy being restored, strengthened and matured. It is now mere speculation as to what a John Kerry victory would have meant for Pakistan, but with a shift in focus, priorities and ambition, it would have at least been better for future prospects for democracy in Pakistan. Perhaps it would have also weakened the dominance that the military has acquired in Pakistani politics on account of this backing from Washington. Sadly, for four more years, the Busharraf alliance is well entrenched and democracy still a long way away.
1Both officials have since resigned from their jobs in the US state department.
HOME Landelijke India Werkgroep
pagina KRUITVAT INDIA-PAKISTAN